Dayna Fjord

Texeira boosts Portland over Spokane

When your team is mired in a five-game losing streak and is struggling to score, you expect your veteran leaders to step up and provide a boost. Portland Winterhawks overage d-man Keoni Texeira did just that Tuesday night in Spokane.

With the teams tied at two and trading chances, Texeira burst through neutral ice, put the puck between high NHL draft prospect Ty Smith’s legs, picked it up on the other side and beat goalie Donovan Buskey.

The rush was the type the veteran Texeira has shown at times, most notably in the playoffs as a rookie 16-year-old back in 2014, when he had two goals scored that way.

Keoni Texeira

Since those days, Texeira has been more restrained, but he was anything but that during his highlight-reel rush Tuesday. He had to be feeling the pressure, with this being the last game before Joachim Blichfeld (Denmark), Kieffer Bellows (U.S.A.) and Henri Jokiharju (Finland) join Cody Glass (Canada) at their respective World Junior camps. If the Hawks had their losing streak extended to six and then faced life without four of their top-five scorers, their perch atop the U.S. Division would seem to be in immediate danger.

Instead, Texeira, who had only one assist during the five-game skid, stepped up and provided the eventual winner, in what was a hard-hitting and tense game.

Blichfeld led the way for Portland with two goals, while Skyler McKenzie added two assists. Cole Kehler stopped 30 of 32 in the win.

Spokane got on the board first with 5:19 left in the opening frame. Hudson Elynuik came fresh off the bench on a line change and scooped up a loose puck. He then used a screen in front of Portland goalie Cole Kehler to beat the Portland netminder for his 15th goal this year.

The Winterhawks tied the game just six seconds after Elynuik got called for interference made it four aside hockey. Joachim Blichfeld won the draw and then got into place for the rebound of a Henri Jokiharju shot to notch his 12th this year.

Portland then took their first lead just over a minute later while the two teams were still skating four players aside. Ty Smith’s pass to Jaret Anderson-Dolan at his own blue line handcuffed the L.A. Kings prospect and Kieffer Bellows took advantage. he poked the puck away and skated in alone on Spokane goalie Donovan Buskey. He got Buskey to be aggressive and then lifted a shot into the gaping cage for his 19th and first goal since November 22nd.

The Chiefs tied the game back up off some great puck possession from their top line. Elynuik won a battle in the corner and found Kailer Yamamoto alone in the slot. The U.S.A. World Junior hopeful wired a shot past Kehler knotting the game at two.

After Texeira made it 3-2, 6:56 into the second, the Chiefs had some chances to tie, but could not find the net behind Kehler. Portland would put the game away with an empty-net-goal from Blichfeld in the closing seconds.

Buskey, who has drawn some starts with Dawson Weatherill on the mend, stopped 25 of 28.

Both teams failed to net a power play goal on two opportunities.

Game notes:

-Zach Fischer left the game and did not return in the first.

-Jaydon Dureau, Seth Jarvis and Connor Bowie were all called up as affiliate players. They are expected to play while Portland is missing the four WJC hopefuls.

-Portland no is 5-0 in their season series with Spokane. They have outscored the Chiefs 24-6.

-Portland is now 20-7-2-0 vs. Spokane over last five years.

-Alex Overadt was 10/18 on the draw, while Jake Gricius was 4/10 and Blichfeld was 4/12.

-Bellows and Blichfeld each led the way with five shots for Portland.

-Texeria now has 127 career points in 309 games.

-Portland will head to Everett for a game Friday against the Carter Hart-less Silvertips. Everett has closed the gap for the division lead down to three points. Portland has two more games in hand.

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